Do you understand the difference between guilt & shame?

I’d like you to encourage you to start to decipher the difference between guilt and shame self-talk because it has a true impact on how we show up each day and our performance.

Let me simply explain the difference. Guilt is how we feel about our behaviours and shame is linked to the thoughts we have about who we are. Too often I notice the two are intertwined when I coach people. When people are not happy with their behaviour when they find themselves unaligned with what is important to them and their values the natural reaction is to be hard on themselves. To chastise themselves. This recognition of poor self-leadership away from what your inner mentor knows you should be doing is the first step in a correction. However, all too often when this happens it is the self-sabotaging power of ‘shame’ self-talk which overpowers.

Guilt self-talk holds the key to change. Shame self talk pulls you further down into misery. I know we don’t want to ideally feel either but if you are in this hole of self-doubt and mind monkey chatter, by changing the tone and the words you can start to move out on quickly.

When you use words which imply guilt vs shame your mindset is ready to consider solutions and find motivation to correct behaviour. Shame closes you down, fills you with self-loathing, negativity and stops you being open to solutions.

I always use the fabulous Brene Brown’s approach of listening out for ‘I am’ (shame) vs ‘I did’ (guilt).

Let me give you a quick example from personal experience;

“I am awful! I am always so distracted with work I never listen properly to my children when they are talking to me’


‘I didn’t listen to my child’s story because I was so distracted with thinking about work’

Which statement will serve you better? Which will enable you to open a debate which could lead to change or even acceptance?

If you hear an ‘I AM’ in your negative self talk then stop and rethink it. Is this really what you believe? how does it sound if you say it out loud – does it sound rational? if you were to say it to a friend would it be helpful, loving and motivating? Try changing the words to ‘I did’ and see if it eases the impact. You’ll see it gives you something to work with at least.

Tune itto your words and tone, step in and reframe and then change the self talk. Acknowledge when you may not be behaving how your inner mentor knows you should but then give yourself a chance to change it by working with guilt and not by shaming yourself.

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